Old is Better. New is just More

Customer: Here. Keys to the replacement car.
: Thank you, and your keys. Your car is repaired and you may drive her home now.
: Thanks. You know.. actually I like your replacement car better. It drives better.
: But, they’re different models. *courteous smile* You can’t compare two of different generations.
: I know its a real old model.. but the steering is snappy, engine starts when I turn the key - and check this out - the speedo meter doesn’t hang on me from time to time.
Manufacturer: Yes, people usually say that about old models. *wider smile* But your new car gives you a real-time GPS map, plays MP3 and you can even choose from over 84 polyphonic car-horn tunes.

What a fictitious, improbable piece of crappy dialog? Well, change the context to a mobile phone, and that’s what just took place last night at the LG service centre. No.. no big qualm about LG - they make good fridge (I think) - just some pet peeves about mobile phones in general. When I mentioned I actually prefer the replacement phone during tea-time yesterday, my colleagues readily agreed with me that (not only LG you see) old phone models are better phones. And, these are not your uncle/aunty colleagues, mind you. Message him "You free?" on Yahoo! Messenger and he could well reply "Driving."

Why are things this way? Is it an acceptable fact-of-life that new generation, smarter phones are generally lousier phones.. albeit with more features? Can’t newer things do the old stuff just as well? If not better?? Change the context to cars and suddenly,.. you get a really silly trend.

You see, that’s because the software is crap. I’m a software engineer and I say again it is crap! Software is most crap when they’re not designed to serve the main purpose of their existence. Ah! But a software has so many purposes, that’s why its so hard to make one that doesn’t suck you see? For every idiot you find, you’ll get 10 different opinions on what a device should do. The pitfall is, when you cater to all of them, you cater to none. Even Dash got it right - "[Everyone is special] Its like saying nobody is."

So, I’ll be an idiot and I’ll say mine, because this is my blog and I’m host today. Let’s talk about mobile phones since its close to heart (being in my pockets, its actually closer to there). I don’t know about yours, so I’ll talk about mine. I mean my PHONE, you sicko. Mobile phones are multi-purpose devices, so let’s give them the fair appraisal as different devices, of a different purpose each.

Make a call, pick up a call - Fail this, and your phone is a just PDA. Luckily, most phones get the simplicity of this correct. With screen size these days, anything that scolls long names across the screen should be shot. If I can search-as-I-type the address book, why can’t I search-as-I-type the recently-dialled list? Want a phone for your mum? Buy Samsung. Why? The font is bigger when dialing. Why can’t all other manufacturers just have bigger dialing fonts? Btw, Samsung does have bigger dialing buttons too, but that’s hardware - discussion for another day.

Add/Search the address book - Nobody I know ever goes to "Menu > Addressbook > Add" anymore, they just dial the other party and later Add from the recent-dialled list. Why? Why does all "Add" menu ask for the name first when the number is the more volatile and forgettable? And some think its even important you decide SIM or Phone Memory first, duh? And if I only always get to see these same first few contacts everytime I open up the addressbook, why does it still have to re-read from my SIM - you mean I can change SIM card on-the-fly? Or is its a prelude to the next model’s iPodShuffle-the-addressbook feature? In fact, while I’m at caching, can’t the SMS Inbox cache the first page of messages for me to open up the Inbox fast?

Send/Receive Messages - This one, I think, Nokia has nailed it eons ago. Its only beyond me why all other manufacturers simply refuse to repeat their success (Or is there a patent on menu sequences?). And, when a new message arrive, 1-button and show it! Don’t EVER take me to the Inbox list! Periodically "Delete All" your Inbox? "No more space for new messages"? The phone can’t handle large list of messages? How about softening that defect of your phone by introducing a "Reply & Delete" menu? Message Replied? Deleted? Take me out! What are the chances that after replying to a message, that I wish to read it again? Or after deleting a new message, do I wish to look at any of the large list of messages in Inbox that I’d chosen not to delete previously? You’re already a so-slow-processor, don’t waste my time doing these unnecessary cpu-intensive next page.

Taking/Browsing pictures - Simple rule of thumb: 1-Button. Ok? Programs should be pre-loaded once the phone is turned on (Ok, its trying, but I hope!). Then accessing them will be a flash - a task switch, not an application startup. If I choose "Camera", and only then do you start the application - the girl has already gone away!

And when any manufacturer finally gets everything right, for the sake of evolution, will the rest just kindly follow?